QUEER VOICES

Great New York State Fair Celebrates First-Ever LGBT Pride In Style

A rainbow flag and Melissa Etheridge made this historic event one to remember.
This amazing sand sculpture was on display at the Center of Progress Building. 
This amazing sand sculpture was on display at the Center of Progress Building. 

The Empire State’s best entertainment, food, agriculture and technology is once again on prominent display at the annual Great New York State Fair in Syracuse. This year, however, the offerings feel more inclusive than ever, on account of the event's first-ever (and historic) LGBT Pride Day.

Excitement for the Aug. 28 event had been building ever since New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo had designated the fair's first Friday, which had long been considered an informal gathering of LGBT visitors not unlike Walt Disney World’s Gay Days, as an official Pride celebration earlier this summer. Organizers also said it was the first time that the LGBT community had officially received a day-long honor at any state fair in the country.

That sunny, postcard-perfect morning, early concerns about pushback to the event were quickly dispelled as the festivities kicked off with a ceremonial raising of the rainbow flag right at the fair's main gate.

A rainbow flag was raised at the fair's front gate. 
A rainbow flag was raised at the fair's front gate. 

“We do have opponents who wanted to shut this day down -- you know, folks who are saying they won’t go to the fair because there are lesbians, gays, queers and various sorts here,” Bruce Carter, who previously served as president of Central New York Pride and was on hand for the flag-raising, told the crowd. “They fail to recognize that we’re always been here, and will continue to be here.”

Revelers were delighted to find the fair’s traditional delights, from friendly livestock and state-of-the-art thrill rides to wine slushies and the legendary “Defibrillator,” a gut-busting Angus burger topped with deep-fried pickles, cheese curds, bacon slices and cheddar cheese, all stuffed between two grilled cheese sandwhiches, in abundance. An afternoon parade featuring marching bands, rainbow floats and a color guard entertained guests of all ages, just before fans rushed the fair’s Chevy Court stage to catch Melissa Etheridge, who had appropriately been booked as the night’s headlining entertainment.

The 54-year-old Grammy-winning rocker was in fine spirits and voice in her concert, tearing through classics like “Come to My Window,” “I’m the Only One” as well as a selection of tunes from her 2014 studio effort, “This is M.E.,” with her signature panache.

The significance of the night was not lost on the Etheridge, who blazed a trail for mainstream stars in 1993 when she came out as a lesbian at roughly the same time she released her breakthrough album, “Yes I Am.”

Snapping a couple of selfies with the crowd in between songs, she said jubilantly, “I hope you’re full of pride!”

Judging by the crowd’s thunderous response, we’re going to say they were.

The Great New York State Fair runs through Sept. 7. Head here for more details

White-knuckle amusement rides were a highlight of the fair's midway. 
White-knuckle amusement rides were a highlight of the fair's midway. 

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